THURSDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- An Iowa company at the center of a massive recall of eggs linked to salmonella contamination dramatically broadened the nationwide recall on Wednesday to 380 million eggs.
The nationwide salmonella outbreak, which federal officials said was the largest of its type related to eggs in years, has sickened more than 250 people in at least four states, according to news reports.
The outbreak, which apparently began in May, appears to be ongoing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The outbreak began several weeks before the July introduction of new federal safety rules intended to reduce the risk of salmonella in eggs, The New York Times reported.
On Aug. 13, the CDC said: "There have been confirmed Salmonella enteritidis illnesses relating to the shell eggs and traceback investigations are ongoing."
The outbreak has been tracked to in-shell eggs from Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, which launched the recall. Its eggs were distributed to wholesalers and food-service companies nationwide under multiple brand names: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemps.
According to state health officials, the salmonella-contaminated eggs have sickened at least 266 Californians, 28 people in Colorado and seven people in Minnesota. Clusters of suspicious cases have also been reported in Arizona, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, the Associated Press reported.
The recall covers eggs in their shells packed between May 16 and Aug. 13. They come in cartons ranging from six to 18 eggs and are marked with plant numbers P-1026, P-1413 and P-1946. The eggs should be returned for a refund.
"This certainly has the potential to be a very large outbreak, both given the apparent number of reported cases so far and also the fact that many of these eggs may still be in consumer refrigerators," Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told USA Today.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently has teams on site at Wright County Egg, spokeswoman Patricia El-Hinnawy said.
"Wright County Egg is fully cooperating with FDA's investigation by undertaking this voluntary recall," the company said in a statement, according to ABC News. "Our primary concern is keeping salmonella out of the food supply and away from consumers."
Salmonella can cause fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea and usually lasts four to seven days.
The FDA advised consumers to:
The agency also warned consumers not to keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours, and not to eat raw eggs or restaurant dishes made with raw, undercooked, or unpasteurized eggs.
Eating undercooked eggs should also be avoided, especially by young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems or debilitating illness, the agency added.
The New York Times reported that Wright County Egg has had "run-ins" with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, as well as the hiring of illegal immigrants and the harassment of workers.
Hinda Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Wright County Egg, said the company had put the required federal safety measures to protect against salmonella in eggs in place before the July deadline, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, the Umpqua Dairy Products Co. has recalled certain milk and drink products sold in Oregon, southwestern Washington state and northern California after a strain of salmonella bacteria that has sickened 23 people was linked to its milk plant, the AP reported.
The Oregon Department of Human Services said tests showed that 23 Oregon residents had matching DNA patterns of salmonella braenderup. Two people were hospitalized, the news service said.
Harmful bacteria such as salmonella are the most common cause of foodborne illnesses, according to federal health officials.
For more information on salmonella, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: U.S. Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Associated Press; ABC News; USA Today; The New York Times
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